Magan Magan Reviews S K Kelen’s Yonder Blue Wild and Kit Kelen’s Poor Man’s Coat

By | 19 December 2019

And what if we choose to not get distracted by dizzy lights? In Kit Kelen’s poem ‘become your own hobby’ he begins with a potent question that we often ask ourselves when we’ve become sick of our failings, when our body becomes too small to hold our divided selves and the effect of the toxins released from the people around us. This is a mirror poem, which serves to reflect back to us the place in which we have found ourselves:

who was it I hoped to be?
pottering these late last years
mourning time lost
to serious affairs

then the river I stepped in 
ran off
ran dry 
ran toxic blooms.

When Kit Kelen asks ‘who was it I hoped to be?’ he is looking for context. The question directs the reader to a kind of loss that has been tucked in the most intimate parts of our existence. A mirror poem creates the possibility for the opening of a radical re-introduction to ourselves:

when did this begin to worry me?
the truth makes yet another attempt 
as a matter of fact it’s with us right now

sit still for beginner’s mind
then it’s like
hearing your own voice
after your death
strange rasping but sweet
and then you won’t know it

In his poem ‘clonal clan’ Kelen introduces a promise that sounds desperate – aligned with the tone of travel and all its excesses: ‘let’s make sure we are survived / that’s the most sacred duty’. The poem is a type of lingering mourning. It reeks of torn kinship by powerful force. Kelen doesn’t expect apology for this loss: ‘it takes a long time for a house to fall down / by any means it may avail’.

Poetry concerns itself with knowing the truth. Poetry believes in the existence of the objective truth. I have spent my entire life working with and against ideas about identifying objective truth. As a reader, I feel that identifying the ‘truth’ is a challenge poetry takes on. When I think of truth in relation to personhood, I am unable to divorce it from this idea that we are born a certain way and that that self stays with us our entire life. For this, in Kelen’s poem ‘timber and stone’:

is how a house stands
the weather is in it these years
wind for walls
the views in the glass
paint to hold the storm

The only thing I know about a person that cannot be altered is one’s sexuality. There is something defiant about it, something resilient to it that no one can change. He also writes in his poem ‘I must be the mystery myself’:

the track will warm me, sun or no

not yet October
but I see my breath
in daylight

here a tapping in the woods
when the track comes still

it’s my pen makes these lines

Kit Kelen’s poetics are concerned with personhood. Poor Man’s Coat highlights subjectivity, and what is more significant to human subjectivity than conversation? Conversations have destroyed some while liberating others. In Kelen’s poem ‘Parable’, which leads this review, there is agreement. But what happens when we are all consumed with our wants? When we try to fit the external world into our own disagreeable inner world? We turn into bulldozers, eradicate everything in front of us – hungry to be seen and heard. There is argument:

And we were the flame
as if winter were our own forever
we only wanted the whole world warmer

o fearful the dark
but we brought fire in 
the others we’ve seen eaten

Brothers S K Kelen and Kit Kelen are exploring themes that often seem to us as individual problems; their appearance misguides people into a kind of loneliness of the inner self. Poetry colours the gaps in such appearances by furthering conversations that awaken us to shared dilemmas and by reminding us of the crucial place of ‘difference’ that exists in the lives of individuals.

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